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U-S Senate Approves Legislation Declaring Millions of Acres Wilderness

January 16, 2009

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved legislation that will provide for the largest increase in wilderness protections in more than 25 years - a total of two million acres covering nine states.

Mike Matz, executive director of the Campaign for America's Wilderness, says consideration of the measure early in the year proves South Dakota residents and the rest of America believe in protecting wilderness.

"It's nice for folks to know these places are out there; that they can go on vacation from South Dakota to California or Idaho or Colorado, get out and hike, hunt, fish and just enjoy time camping with their family."

Opponents blocked the legislation last year over concerns it would block oil and gas development, and ban timber and mineral resources development. Matz says most public land is still open for those businesses, and the strong support for the wilderness is "proof positive" that Americans want the state's and nation's wild lands to remain wild for future generations.

"Whether it's in South Dakota, Western South Dakota on the plains, or in Arizona, people have been working diligently to develop the kind of local support necessary to enable their members of Congress to take this kind of action early in this Congress."

South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson voted in favor, while Sen. John Thune opposed. South Dakota citizens have been working in recent years to designate four areas in Western South Dakota as wilderness to protect them from off-road vehicle abuse, oil drilling, mining and road building.

David Law, Public News Service - SD